Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Another case of plagiarism in papers published only months apart

with 5 comments

pageHeaderTitleImageRemember when we recently found PLOS ONE had published two papers with “substantial overlap” from two different groups, that were edited around the same time? Well, we have discovered another similarly perplexing case of plagiarism in two studies published only months apart. But in this instance, we have a possible explanation for how two groups of authors from different institutions could report a similar experiment and data, and even use some of the same text.

It also concerns a paper focusing on cancer biology — in this case, it’s a 2014 paper retracted by Clinical and Investigative Medicine after editors learned that it contained many similarities to a study published only a handful of months before in Tumour Biology.

According to an email from an author on the retracted paper to the editor, an unnamed biotech company completed some of the experiments and revised the language. The author implies the biotech many have given their results to another scientist “without our permission.”

The retracted study, “GOLP3 is a predictor of survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma,” described research on GOLPH3, a protein that may serve as a novel way to help measure the severity of liver cancer.

Here’s the notice:

It has come to our attention that the a manuscript published in CIM: JianXin J, Cha Y, ZhiPeng L, Jie X, Hao Z, Meiyuan C, ChengYi S “GOLP3 is a predictor of survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma” Clin Invest Med. 2014 Aug 1;37(4):E233-42 contains text identical to a manuscript published in Tumour Biology: Hu GS, Li YQ, Yang YM, Shi W, Liao AJ, Yao YH, Zeng B, Yuan J “High expression of Golgi phosphoprotein-3 is associated with poor survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma” Tumour Biol. 2014 Sep;35(9):8625-32. doi: 10.1007/s13277-014-2105-8. Epub 2014 May 28. For this reason, the publication in CIM has been retracted.

Here’s the timing for the Clinical and Investigative Medicine paper, according to the paper:

Manuscript submitted 31st March, 2014
Manuscript accepted 20th July, 2014

Here’s the timing for the paper in Tumour Biology:

Received: 22 November 2013 /Accepted: 14 May 2014 /Published online: 28 May 2014

Editor-in-chief Jonathan Angel forwarded us the email that tipped him off to the plagiarism, warning the authors were from different institutions, “which might indicate multiple submissions or plagiarism.”

Angel emailed the authors about the plagiarism, then recontacted them when he didn’t hear anything, saying:

The email below was sent to you almost 3 months ago. If we do not receive a satisfactory response, your manuscript will be withdrawn from CIM, removed from Pubmed and the doi number will be eliminated. Your institution will also be informed of the matter.

Final author Sun ChengYi responded to Angel’s second message.

Dear editor,

It is horrible to receive your letter. We are very sorry, we did not receive your first email, this may be because email system error. We have carefully checked my paper and the article published in “tumor biology”, yes, it is surprisingly identical to the later text. We are also strange why the job in “tumor biology” is exactly the same as mine.

We designed independently the experimental schemes, however, due to the busy day work, we empowered a biotech company to finish the following experimental work. After finishing all work, we also wrote independently the paper and empowered the same biotech company to revise the language. We carefully check the whole event, it is may be the company who sole our research results to other person without our permission. We have made solemn representations with the biotech company and authors of paper published in “tumor biology”.

In here, we apologize to you for this bad incident! And now due to our carelessness, we are forced to withdraw the paper from your journal via your kind help.

We’ve reached out to ChengYi as well as Guang-Sheng Hu, the final author of the Tumour Biology paper. We’ll update if they respond.

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Written by Ross Keith

February 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Comments
  • aceil February 2, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Shouldn’t this be expected to be a result of enforcing the culture of publish in English or perish?

    • Dean Meyer February 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      No, it wasn’t a language editing company that copied the text. It was the company that did part of the experimental work and wrote it up – according to the author.

  • Dave Fernig February 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    A danger of outsourcing?
    Are any of the authors from the biotech company?

  • Sylvain Bernès February 2, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    If “a biotech company completed some of the experiments and revised the language” as stated by the last author, this contribution must be acknowledged and the company named in the ‘Acknowledgment’ section, as provided in the Vancouver protocol for manuscripts submitted to biochemical & medical journals.

  • human February 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    It is so confusing, It should gave the company name and the retraction department name

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